The American Experience. I bet it sounded awesome in their heads. I can practically see it: the 11th grade team, tapping pencils, brainstorming curricula for the year. The American Experience; oh how it rolls off one’s tongue. It sounds like a seventh grade textbook or a tourist brochure one might pick up at Mt. Rushmore. But most of all, it sounds like the kind of quintessential bull-poop that high school teachers come up with in hopes of creating something they see as unifying, creative and conceptual.
That’s all well and good, but we juniors have had enough. Conjoining two classes like English and History may seem, in theory, like a synergistic masterpiece, but honestly, it’s nothing short of redundancy. It’s repetitive. If, as a teacher, your goal is to engage admittedly low-attention spanned teenagers, repetition is really the wrong alley to be going down.
Because here’s the deal. We labor over these major papers; our teachers make sure of that. Reams of drafts will pile up, revisions and edits aplenty. Hours of our young lives, spent in the glow of Microsoft Word, fly by. We work and develop and re-do, re-phrase, re-conceptualize. So by the time we hand in the final copy these teachers are expecting, we’ve got that godforsaken essay memorized.
With that in mind, here’s a great idea, courtesy of our English teachers: let’s do the exact same thing again, except this time in a different format!
With all due respect: are you kidding me? I thought this was a class that prides itself on creativity as well as intellect. Directly quoting the College Board itself, we’re supposed to be learning to “compose for a variety of purposes.” Changing the medium from editorial to research paper doesn’t change our purpose. At the end of the day, all we’re really doing is becoming experts on analytical commentary on U.S. history. You’d think that’s what we should be doing in U.S. history class.
But the American Experience doesn’t stop at being repetitive and irrelevant. We could deal with those two. No, the very notion of “the American Experience” is downright pretentious. For those of you who don’t know, we’re expected to come up with some overarching concept that applies to all of America and only America. The sheer conceit of it all is maddening enough. But being stuck with this topic for the entire year has badly re-imaged 11th grade English as a whole. However, AP Lang has taken the greatest blow. It’s been demoted from “the class that’s really hard but it taught me a lot” to “that class where we do the same thing every day.”